Fidel Castro: a 90 year Cuban legacy

Photo: Craig Maclean
Photo: Craig Maclean

by Bill Bonnar

The International Socialist Movement has just lost one of its greatest leaders. Fidel Castro was a statesman of the 20th century, the most important Latin American leader since Simon Bolivar and a giant of socialism. His story is so intertwined with the modern history of Cuba they are impossible to entangle. When Castro launched the rebellion against the corrupt war criminal Batista, Cuba was a de-facto colony of the USA.

Run by a cabal of gangsters, a handful of wealthy Cuban families and representatives of American multi-national companies, it had become a cesspool of corruption, violence, exploitation and degradation while the great mass of the people lived in poverty. The 1959 revolution swept this away, restored Cuban independence and set the country on a socialist road with a simple objective: to create a society which put the interests of the Cuban people first.

fidel_castro_-_washington_1959-copyOf course this proved utterly unacceptable to the USA which waged an unrelenting campaign against the revolution including a devastating economic blockade, military invasion, assassination attempts against the life of Castro and systematic acts of terrorism. Against this threat the Cuban Revolution, led by Castro stood defiant. The recent rapprochement between the US and Cuban Governments represented the complete failure of 50 years of American aggression and is testament to that defiance.

In more recent years Cuba has been a model of international solidarity, exporting thousands of doctors and teachers to Africa and Latin America.
Perhaps the most striking aspect of Castro’s leadership has been its unflinching commitment to socialist internationalism. In the sixties the Cuban government gave significant support to liberation movements all over the world culminating in Angola in 1975 when the government dispatched thousands of Cuban troops to halt the South African invasion of that country. This elite white South African army was routed and forced to flee, a defeat which Nelson Mandela described as the beginning of the end of apartheid.

In more recent years Cuba has been a model of international solidarity, exporting thousands of doctors and teachers to Africa and Latin America. Castro’s entire political life was given to the struggle for Cuban independence and the struggle for liberation and socialism all over the world. He may have died but his legacy will live and endure – because heroes live forever.

Bill Bonnar is the national secretary of the Scottish Socialist Party.